Fifteenth Annual Sketchbook Festival Review- A Terrific Double Bill of Short Plays, Music and Art

The Fifteenth annual and final Sketchbook Festival by Collaboraction Theatre Company, 1579 N. Milwaukee, has just ended at The Chopin Theatre,  1543 W. Division, but Collaboraction has many exciting new projects in the works. For the past 20 years, this company has created original theatrical experiences that enlarge the traditional scope of artistic boundaries to explore critical social issues. Sketchbook, hailed as “the premier short play Festival in the Midwest”, showcases 16 world premier theater pieces of seven minutes or less, and has thus given Chicago 240 world premieres in its history. Each piece has been created by a Chicagoan, and the Festival has traditionally been split into two shows. This year, the program was split into “Life” and “Death”, the first set being lighter and wildly funny, the second containing a group of darker, more deeply ironic pieces.

 

For this final effort, Collaboraction’s Festival Director, Anthony Moseley reunited with artist Wesley Kimler, to create a cross-genre festival. Moseley, an actor and producer, has been the Executive Artistic Director of Collaboraction since 1999, and Kimler is known for his colossal paintings, up to 27 feet high. Unusual black on white Rohrshach-type blotches characteristic of Kimler’s work adorned the stage-set of the Chopin Theater flanking the musical artists Microphone Misfitz , and Julia Miller/Elbio Barilari the night this reviewer was there. The Microphone Misfitz were super hip-hop artists and great dancers- their chant Healthy Independent People Helping Other People still reverberates in my head! Julia and Elvio play electric guitar and electric viola to a fare-thee-well, usually as members of Volcano Radar. The musical guests provided lively entertainment between the skits.The double-header show on January 16th took the audience on a journey through a world of social consciousness. Some of the highlights include:

From Life:

“Fix Your Teeth B*tch-Remix”, by Carolyn Hoerdemann and Kirk Anderson, a devastatingly funny skit involving two actors challenging the audience to admit the last time they had dental work done, and then singing-yelling at them the title line.

Fix Your Teeth, B*TCH-Remix

“Menagerie”, by Drew Dir, directed by Lee Stark, puppet design by Sam Deutsch, which follows a young woman trying to solve the financial woes of her love relationship by appealing to her boyfriend, parents, friend, and boss, each of whom respond to her with puppet animals and noises-this piece had the audience in stitches.

Menagerie

“Spanx You Very Much”, by Dani Bryant, directed by Erica Barnes, choreography by Sheena Laird, a dance for 50+ mostly plus-size women dancing partially unclad with various types of elastic girdles – this was a sheer frolic.

Spanx You Very Much

From Death:

“Open Arms (The Rapture)”, by Emily Schwartz, directed by Steve Wilson, in which, to their joint surprise, two people actually end up having a wonderful time at their high school reunion.

Open Arms (The Rapture)

“The After”, by Samantha Dedian, directed by Charlotte Drover, a poetry-driven depiction of the devastating effects of sexual violence.

The After

“Seven Minutes”, by Beth Henley, the Pulitzer prize winning playwright who gave us “Crimes of the Heart”, co-directed by John Cabrera and Ian Downing-Beaver, that treats the theme of silence and the vast universe of U.S. products on offer.

Seven Minutes

All in all, the Sketchbook series has brought a wealth of terrific multidisciplinary new artistic experiences to Chicago. Next on the bill from Collaboraction will be the premiere of “Are We Connected?”, a new piece created by Anthony Moseley which explores the difference between face time (in person), face time (on a mobile device), and how technology is changing our world.

For information on this great theater group and tickets, go to the Collaboraction website

Photo credits courtesy of Joel Maisonet

 

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